Former Uruguay international Gustavo Poyet says he backs countryman Luis Suarez "to the death" after the Liverpool striker was banned for eight matches for racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra.
Poyet, who spent 19 years playing in England with Chelsea, Tottenham and Swindon, labelled the FA's punishment "shocking and disproportionate" and insisted Suarez had suffered from cultural differences between England and Uruguay.
The 44-year-old, now manager of Brighton, said that in Uruguay people were referred to as 'blacks' in an affectionate way. He also attacked Evra, saying the French player was "no saint".
Poyet told Ultimas Noticias newspaper in Uruguay: "The ban is incredible, shocking, it's disproportionate. I back Luis to death.
"Things have happened before with Evra. He is not a saint. He is a controversial player. I don't know in which world we are going to live in from now on. People will accuse each other of anything.
"Suarez just arrived [in the Premier League] and there are things that he has to learn when you are in another country because they might be normal in your country but perhaps they are not considered that way in other parts of the world.
"I have tried to explain that we live with coloured people in Uruguay. We share different experiences with them. We play football, we share parties. We are born, we grow up and we die with them. We call them 'blacks' in a natural way, even in an affectionate way. That is the way we were brought up. We are integrated and there are no problems from either side.
"I've explained how the Uruguay people and the South Americans experience these situations with coloured people. I've been many years in England and I understand them. I know how to deal with it, but Luis has only recently arrived here.''
A spokesman for Brighton on Wednesday night moved to clarify that Poyet had been speaking to Ultimas Noticias before the verdict had been announced.
Uruguay's head coach Oscar Tabarez added that he would continue to support Suarez. "He has our full support and solidarity because seen from a distance this seems like an excessive punishment," he said.
However, English footballer Clarke Carlisle, a member of the PFA's management committee and member of the Kick It Out and Show Racism the Red Card campaigns, said that cultural differences were no mitigation. "Ignorance is not an excuse," he said.